I was diagnosed on March 14, 2017. It is now June 12. I am, at 31 years of age, what we call a babbyaut (baby autistic). This is what we call people new to the community, who are not yet well versed in autistic culture, who have not yet shed their allistic skin. When April arrived 15 days after my dx day, I was still practically a fetus.
April is a month long wellspring of grieving for autistic people. The Internet is flooded with saccharine think pieces on the state of “the autism epidemic”, paaarents opining about how haaard autism is for them, irresponsible media releases of poorly interpreted results of poorly designed studies whose common thread is the dehumanization of autistic children… Autistic Activists exhaust themselves attempting to dam the flooding waters with rebuttals, affirmations, messages of acceptance and unconditional love, delightfully sarcastic parodies of what the autism awareness movement looks like when applied to allistic folk…
I came out that April, to my entire Facebook wall, including immediate family, new friends, old friends from school days, a collection of strangers with shared interests…
I spent April feeding my network links to articles by autistic writers, materials which challenged prevailing perceptions of autism, autistic people, what treatment really means, what support really looks like… I had some messages expressing appreciation. I hosted some arguments too. As it turns out, some old friends “do ABA.” But that’s a story for another time.
That’s what April looks like for me to the outside. Patient. Informative. Benevolent. Firm.
On the inside? On the inside there was rage.
Professionals promise “early intervention” using principles of animal training to extinguish autistic coping behaviors and encase your children in performative shells. And I am angry. “Experts” render us subhuman, publishing poorly designed studies with little to no external validity as evidence that we are animalistic, sociopathic, devoid of Empathy. And I am angry. Charlatans sell poison to parents in books you can buy off Amazon. Because a sick child is a docile child. And I am angry. Paaarents abuse autistic adults, using our ability to speak via text as the sole point of invalidation of our voices. We can’t stand up for non speaking autistics because we can type. And I am angry.
Was I allowed to be this angry? Am I allowed to feel so full of fight and belligerence?
I couldn’t shake the voice, the little self-doubt gremlin, that tried to hold me down and tell me I was coopting anger from the “real autistics”, the elders, the ABA survivors, the activists…
But I thought, what if everyone was this angry? What if it wasn’t just autistic activists and the rare allistic ally marching with clenched fists against the brutalization of autistic children and the erasure of autistic adults? I’m allowed to be angry because everyone should be angry. We as a society are abusing 1% of the population. There are many other social injustices which I do not experience but for which I am allowed and even expected to be angry. How do you fight for change without the conviction anger affords?
The gremlin still lurks, emerging from time to time, stealing away my resolve ad my heart in moments of silence and introspection. But when he’s away, I know the truth – I’ve been autistic my whole life. I am a real autistic. This anger is mine. And wearing it is like coming home.